MONTRÉAL – There is not a beach within 180 miles of Montreal.
But during the second period of Saturday’s 3-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens, NBC’s Pierre McGuire reported during the national broadcast that “sand or some other foreign substance” had been spilled in the hallway leading from the Flyers’ locker room to the Bell Centre ice.
Sand can wreak havoc on the edges of hockey skates, causing players to slip and fall unexpectedly. It could be an explanation as to why an inordinate number of players were forced to leave the game for periods of time to have their skates re-sharpened.
No player or coach would confirm the incident post-game – or even suggest malice was intended – but by the third period, the Flyers laid down towels in the hallway to prevent the reoccurrence.
“We had skate issues, that’s for sure,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You know, we lost [Mike] Richards three times, Kimmo [Timonen] two times, and I don’t know.
“I’m not familiar with the rumors, but we certainly had some skate issues.”
Scott Hartnell, Darroll Powe and Claude Giroux also missed shifts during the game to have their skates repaired.
“I think it was five times that I had to get my skates sharpened tonight, which is obviously a bit much,” Richards said. “I’m not sure [what happened]. I didn't check the carpet for [sand].”
Richards said Flyers assistant equipment manager Harry Bricker, the man in charge of skate sharpening, said the substance on the floor was “a little too big for being sand pellets.”
One player told the Daily News he had “never seen anything like it,” and confirmed the accuracy of McGuire's report.
Off-ice gamesmanship is nothing new in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for road teams. Players and coaches have long complained about having the hot water turned off for the post-game shower or even about between-period stat sheets not being available. But having an off-ice issue like that turn into an on-ice problem is a rarity.
To the Flyers’ credit, no player or coach was willing to point a finger and say the mystery substance was anything more than a mistake.
It’s just one more thing to watch for on Monday, as the Flyers attempt to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 13 years with a win over the Canadiens in Game 5.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter (http://twitter.com/DNFlyers).